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CMHC says Canadians debt levels hit record highs at end of last year

Last Updated May 22, 2019 at 9:37 am PST

FILE - Homes are pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

TORONTO — Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says household debt reached a record high at the end of last year while mortgage activity slowed compared to a year earlier.

The federal housing agency says the debt to income ratio of Canadians hit a record high of 178.5 per cent in the fourth quarter last year as mortgage holders continued to take on non-mortgage debt.

CMHC says debt levels rose as average balances for credit cards and lines of credit grew at a faster pace than in 2017, especially in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto.

It says debt levels rose even as average home prices fell after interest rates rose slightly, economic growth slowed and new mortgage regulations came into place.

For new loans, the average value was 3.8 per cent lower than a year ago, while the average value of all mortgages rose 3.1 per cent to $209,570 in the quarter.

CMHC says debt levels are increasing for older consumers, as the share of mortgage holders aged 55 and older continued to grow.